Cutting the Cord for Airbnb?

Cutting the cord is a sensitive topic for people who “need” it, and fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of people see lazily watching TV for the week as one of the best parts of their vacation.  It makes cutting the cord much harder when your goal is hacking your house for maximum profits.

From TV-Free to Hi-Tech

I lived 6 years with no TV.  I would watch shows at my parents’ house, make a fun night of it at a friend’s house, or watch shows at work during my lunch break.  I painted the living room walls white at my house in Michigan and used a projector for movies.  I bought a cheap white king-sized sheet to hang outside so I could project movies outside over the pool in my Florida house.

Then I started to Airbnb the house.  My listing said “NO TV,” and there was clearly not a TV in the photo of the living room.  I still regularly got people who showed up and asked where the TV was, or if I was “holding out with a TV in my room that they could borrow.”  No, vacationers who for some reason don’t want to visit a fancy beach instead, I am not withholding your only source of mindless entertainment!  As someone who was TV free, I just didn’t get it.  This went on from July through October, when someone actually brought their own TV and set it up in my living room, and I finally realized that I should just buy a TV with all the extra income I was bringing in.

I snagged a great deal on a TV during Black Friday.  No surprise that it was a door buster from Target! It’s a 60” Samsung 4k Smart TV with all the bells and whistles, including fancy apps and internet connection.  I ended up opening a Target credit card for an extra 5% discount, since I actually do a lot of my bulk shopping at Target anyway.  The TV ended up at a cool $709.50 ($698 minus 5% for Target red card discount plus 7% sales tax), but usually cost well over a thousand dollars.  This was November 2016, so prices are even lower now due to better and cheaper technology!

I also bought a flat wall mount to secure my “investment” (a depreciating asset, to be sure, but it generated more consistent bookings and less questions in the long run).  The flat wall mount ensures that running children will not knock it over and that adults will not try to move it.  I did not buy the swivel mount that allows for rotating the TV or moving it out from the wall because I was not interested in guests touching it for any reason.

So Now I Need Cable... or Do I?

First, Bunny Ears!  For On-Air Programs, I have a 50-mile range antenna.  It’s a flat black panel that tucks behind my TV.  You can attach it to the wall, but mine is just resting on the wall mount.  It gets about 20 channels in my area including ABC (and allowing me to watch the Bachelor at home now!), but you can figure out exactly which channels you’ll get before you purchase one.  It depends on your area and the local towers.  You might not be so lucky if you live in the middle of nowhere.

Second,  Amazon Prime.   It allows for free streaming of so many shows and movies that you could watch for months on end.   They also include many of the HBO shows for free. The Samsung TV automatically hooks up to Amazon streaming.  I disabled one click purchases to ensure I’m not billed for a guest wanting to watch something that would cost me extra.  The cost for Prime is $99 per year, but comes with  all sorts of additional perks I’ve enjoyed while my guests are busy watching the TV.​

The bunny ears and Amazon Prime solved 90% of all guests’ television problems.  Additionally, the Smart TV has various “Apps” including Pandora Radio, YouTube, and TED Talks, all of which add to the free viewing pleasure.  You can find almost anything on YouTube.

It’s extremely important to be up front about not having cable in your listing so as to not lead to disappointment later.  I have a simple note in my ad that says “NO CABLE, but free use of antenna and Amazon Prime streaming.”  Yes, I’ve probably had guests pass over my listing before due to not having cable.  No, it hasn’t affected my business.  I’m still booked almost every single weekend.  Remember, there’s only one space to rent out, and competition only drives the price so high before you are overpriced and don’t get any bookings.  I was full even before I got the TV, and getting one honestly did not end up at a higher price per night.  It just led to less confusion upon arrival (a TV is assumed, even if  it says NO TV in the ad) and less questions.

Still Concerned About the Last 10%?

Guests solve their own problems when they have specific shows, games or platforms in mind.

If you have a Netflix account, feel free to share.  However, I’ve found that if a guest has a Netflix account, they prefer to log into their account on the TV to watch.  They have their own queue and movies/ratings set up, so it’s easier to just log in themselves.  Consider this: If over 35 million people already have a Netflix account, it’s likely that anyone who wants it already has it.  Anyone else will likely survive with the Prime selection of movies and shows.

For live action sports that are not broadcast, I recommend guests try out various sports bars downtown that feature great food, great beer, and walls of TVs showing every current game and sports channel possible.  A night out is more memorable anyway.  I’ve never gotten complaints when I make this suggestion.

If You Want Extras Anyway

SlingTV is becoming very popular, but I’ve honestly never interacted with it.  The hard part about this is knowing your guests’ interests, because you pick channels a la carte.

Hulu Plus is a great option for TV shows that are currently running live and is a very cost-effective option for “on demand” television.  They do show commercials throughout the episodes, which helps keep total cost down overall for the viewers.

There are plenty of other channels with apps directly on the Smart TV that allow you to watch shows via streaming (ESPN, HBO, Starz, ABC, CBS, and NBC to name a few).  You could consider some of these options if you have specific shows or genres in mind.  For example, if your guests are always the college football crowd in for the season games, you might want to add ESPN as a perk.

I love Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon, and my partner loves Star Trek.  We decided to add CBS All Access through Amazon, but this is mainly for us, not for guests.  It’s $9.99 per month.

At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone.  That goes for anything in life.  Aim for 90%, and let the last 10% go.